The view isn’t much different on this side of the border but it feels different. Everything looks bigger. Feels emptier. I know a line on a map don’t make anybody any safer if someone wants to put a bullet in my head but it’s different, just crossing that line. Got a whole other country behind me now. I’m not about to get sloppy or nothing, thinking they won’t come gunning, but it feels like we just put a fuck of a lot of space between us.
Never been to Canada before. Never really been anywhere before. Even when I went places with Matty, we never went far. Farthest we ever got was Montana and that wasn’t no fucking camping trip. Mostly we stayed in New York so this’s as far as I ever been.
There’s a part of me that wants to turn around and go right the fuck back. How fucked up is that? Like what, I get way the fuck out here in the middle of nowhere with no guys and I can’t fucking handle it? I can’t go back and not only cus I’d end up dead. Did that once and it was a fucking mistake. I never should’ve went back when Matty died. What I should’ve done is what I’m doing now. Get in a car and drive as far as I fucking can and not look back. Easy enough to say when it’s not you. I’ve never been anything else and I’m out here in the middle of fucking nowhere wondering what the fuck I’m doing.
“Can you pull over?”
We been driving West about an hour or so. Quiet. The last place we passed was over a half hour back, just a gas station. We didn’t stop. I got the map out in front of me. There’s nothing for at least five miles.
“Shoulda said something when we passed that gas station.”
“No, just…oh god, just stop.”
“Stay here, kid.”
Barely got the truck stopped and she’s out, running around the back. Other than fucking wheat or some shit as far as the eye can see, there’s nothing else here so she’s standing at the back of the truck, one hand leaning on the bumper, puking her guts out.
The air’s clean here, just the smell of whatever the fuck they’re growing out there in the field. It’s as good a place as any to stop for a smoke so I stand away from her a bit, lean against the truck, and light up. She wipes her mouth and straightens up, leans against the side of the truck. Crying but not making a big deal about it, which is good cus I don’t know what the fuck I’d do about it if she was. All I got is threats and that isn’t going to do it. It takes her a couple of minutes for the hitching to stop but she does it, wiping her face on her shirt sleeve.
If I was a better man I’d probably hold her or some shit. Say something. But there’s nothing I could say that’s gonna make this fucked up mess any better so she gets it out. I take another drag on the cigarette and pass it over to her. She’s shaky but takes it anyway. A couple more minutes go by and I light another one.
“Until we crossed that border I was pretty sure you’d just hand us over to somebody. I just…”
She waves her hand as she chokes up and I look back out over the field of grass when she starts crying again. It don’t seem right to watch her cry, you know? Like I’m seeing shit I got no right to watch. It don’t last long. Whatever else she’s been, she’s no crier.
“I just couldn’t be sure. You could have just as easily have handed us over.”
Probably could have. It might have made everything easier for me but I kind of doubt it. The whole thing was leading up to me being whacked so it wouldn’t'a mattered what the fuck I did with her, I was dead either way. Guess it makes a difference to her. The kid too for that matter.
“No. You didn’t.”
She pushes off the side of the truck. For a second I didn’t know what she was going to do, if she was going to cry again or come at me or what the fuck she intended. She doesn’t do anything like that, just stretches and wipes her eyes again, pulling her shit together.
“Yes, I’m okay. Just wiped out.”
That I get. I’m fucking exhausted but even crossing the border, I still want to put a hell of a lot more space between me and New York.
When she’s ready, we go back and we’re driving again. North. Northwest. I don’t even need to look at the map no more, just stay on the one highway and go where it goes. Shut everything else off. There’s nothing. No radio, no conversation. The kid in the back stopped pointing shit out a long while back cus there’s fucking nothing to point out. Just fields and open road. He’s just looking out the window. Nothing outta Rita for a while and when I look over, she’s asleep.
Moose Jaw. Swift Current. Little places that didn’t even have a name, just wide spots in the road. We need gas and food, other shit, get out of the truck and walk for a bit so I pull off at the next place we come to.
“Let her sleep, kid. She needs it.”
Kid hops out of the back of the truck and we cross the dirt parking lot just as it starts to rain, making for the coffee place beside the gas station. It’s empty except for a couple of guys up at the counter and they’re not paying attention to nothing but the TV. The kid makes a beeline for the john. I let him. If he was gonna run, he’d'a run before now but it’s still the first thought in my head. That’s never gonna change.
Up at the counter I get a couple cups of coffee, heavy on the sugar. Juice for the kid. Some sandwiches and shit. The chick behind the counter’s friendly, smiling at me as she puts all the shit in a bag and then at the kid when he comes out to stand beside me.
Can I tell you something? She had no way to know the little fuck wasn’t mine. Didn’t look at me like I had no business standing next to a little kid. She looked at me first before asking if the kid wanted a donut and I just nodded cus I had no fucking idea what to say if she asked me. I never thought about that shit before. Not that I’m about to start now, I know there’s some shit that’s not for me. Some kid don’t need me fucking up their life. But she don’t know that.
“You gotta help me out with all this sh..stuff.”
I got the coffees in a paper tray and I let him carry the bag full of shit and we head back out into the parking lot. Rita’s already outta the truck by the time we get half way. Panic’s something I recognize but she stows it, fast, smiling at the kid and taking his free hand. We get inside just as the whole fucking sky opens up. Talk about your timing.
I hand her over a cup of coffee and she thanks me quickly. It’s too hot to drink so she’s just holding it, looking out the window. In the back, the kid’s going through the bag, grabbing a sandwich. He went for a donut first but his mother looked up and caught him. I couldn’t get away with shit around my mother. I don’t know how they always know. Kid puts it back and goes for something better for him.
“Why don’t you let me drive for a bit.”
There’s fuck all for miles. No real destination in mind. Just want to keep driving and get as much distance as I can even if I don’t know where the fuck I’m going. I drove longer than this before so I know I can pull it off but fuck me I’m tired. Getting old.
“You wake me up in two hours.”
I feel like I could sleep for a whole fucking day but I never sleep that good any more. Never really did. Doubt I’d sleep the whole two hours anyway. It’s wet, cold and getting dark. I don’t know if they ever been to Canada but there’s nothing out here, just miles and miles of fields and shit so if there’s any safe place to do it, it’s here.
I get outta the truck and go around to the passenger side, handing her the keys. It’s a hard thing to trust, even a bit. Someone’s always out to fuck you one way or another. It’s even harder to look over your shoulder all the fucking time, to never trust nobody. To never take a risk for nobody. I did that first with Matty, when I took a bullet for him. Fights and shit before that don’t count for nothing, I would’a done that anyway, but that bullet was the first time I let go and put my shit on the line for somebody else.
Now I’m doing it again, taking risks and putting my trust in a broad I was supposed to just be taking across the country. It’d be fucking funny if it was somebody else telling me this shit. It is what it is. Beside me, Rita takes a long pull off her coffee and rubs her hands over her eyes, adjusts the seat.
“Do you have somewhere in mind?”
I look down at the map on the console between us, the number one running right across it. The names on the map don’t mean fuck all to me. You said Detroit or Chicago to me, I’d have an idea what I was driving into even if I never been there. Here, I got nothing, it’s all new. Biggest place on the highway is a place called Calgary and I’ll be awake long before that.
“Stay on this route. Just drive.”
I don’t go out all at once. The seat don’t go back so I gotta stay sitting up but I still manage to doze off. I’m not used to being a passenger. Every time I open my eyes we’re somewhere else and I gotta look around and try to get my bearings. Then a road sign flies by and I know we’re still on the same route, heading west. I got no idea where or how far. Everything here is foreign to me. The names, the places. There’s nothing for me to recognize so I doze off again.
Next time I start awake, she tells me we just crossed the line into Alberta. I gotta pull out and unfold the map to get an idea what that means. Just over four hours but it don’t seem like much of a reason to get pissed off. Not like I really slept deep anyway. The kid’s curled up in a ball in the back, out like a light.
I rubbed my eyes and try to stretch and she passes me the bottom of a cold cup of coffee she had beside her on the console. It tastes like shit which is about what I expected. No room to stretch out, either to wake up or go to sleep so I’m somewhere in the middle.
Pull myself together as best I can but I know we got to stop soon. Take a piss, get more coffee, stretch my legs. Guess we ought to switch off and I should let her sleep for a bit.
“Where the fuck are we?”
“About here, I think.”
She looks at the map and points. A whole lot of nothing. Other than Montana, I never seen so much empty space in my life before. Just nothing.
“We got to stop for shit. Gas. Coffee.”
“We haven’t passed anything open for hours. There were some houses back there, and a mall, but everything was dark.”
I told her to let me sleep two hours so she shot me a quick look when she told me how long it’d been. I let it go, I was half in and out of sleep anyway.
“Keep an eye out.”
“Want to switch back?”
Just shake my head at her. We can switch when we stop wherever we stop. I take another quick look at the map, unfolding and refolding it to try to get a better idea for where we are but I got nothing to go by. If I unfold it all the way, I can see the coast. British Columbia. Washington. Vegas is a long fucking way off and New York is even further. Nothing but space and empty.
“There’s something up there.”
She’s pointing over the wheel at something far down the road. Hard to see just how far. Just a light up ahead, off the side of the road. I gotta rub my eyes to look at the time. Fucking five in the morning. She gets agitated when I tell her to come in with me, cutting eyes at the kid asleep in the back.
“Look, it’s too early for this shit. There’s nobody out here. Nobody for miles. Let the kid sleep, nobody’s gonna do a thing to him out here. Just come in with me and get a decent cup of coffee, for fuck’s sake.”
Too early for this shit. That’s true. I’ll tell you something else though. No matter what the fuck happened before, we gone through too much shit together in the past few days to be worrying about it. If that makes me a sap, so what. I fucking dare you to tell me to my face. Right now it’s just early and we been driving all fucking night.
Had to knock on the glass, we was that early. Some kid in a paper hat let us in, just like that. There’s no way a guy’d'a done that where I was from. He tells us it’ll be another couple of minutes for the coffee and leaves us out front. Rita hits the john and then walks up to the glass and watches the road out front. Keeping an eye on the truck.
“Nothing’s gonna happen to him.”
Takes her a second, like she didn’t hear me, and then she turns around and smiles at me quick. Wiped it off her face quick too. Don’t smile easy either.
“Thanks. Thanks for that.”
The kid comes back with the coffees before I could say anything and I get him to throw a couple donuts in a bag for us. It’s not every day somebody’s thanking me so I gotta admit, I don’t know what to say about it.
She passes me the keys and we’re driving again. Didn’t want to sit around in the coffee place, no telling who’s going to show up at that time of the morning, so I’m looking for a place to pull off the road for a bit.
The road crosses a river up ahead and I pull off and drive underneath, right up close to the water. There’s some picnic tables and shit farther down but I don’t wanna go that far so we just sit on some rocks down by the water and drink our coffee.
It’s quiet. That weird fucking quiet that you only get first thing in the morning. The sun just started to come up and I turned to watch it. That’s how this shit started and I came right back to it the first chance I got, somewhere else. This place don’t look nothing like Brooklyn though, even the water looks different. Clean. Still strikes me as funny that no matter where I go, I end up liking the same shit.
Rita’s watching it too, just holding onto her coffee and watching the sun come up. I’m thinking it’s one of the only times she’s ever turned her back to me. Always before, she watched me like a fucking hawk. Got every reason to, don’t think she’s forgot that. It’s a break when we needed it and we take it.
I turn around at the sound of the door of the truck opening and watch the kid get out and stretch. I pass him the bag with the donuts in it when he comes to sit between me and his mother. He’s quiet too, just watching the mist over the water. It’s kinda cold out. Rita didn’t say nothing but the kid looks cold so I take my jacket off and put it around his shoulders. Little fuck turns around and grins at me and stuffs the rest of a donut in his mouth. Rita shoots a look at me, holds it and then is looking back over the water. Another thanks. They’re stacking up.
We get up and stretch again when the sun burns off the rest of the mist on the water. The kid’s standing there in my jacket. It’s huge on him, coming down to his knees, and it fucking hits me low in the gut like I just got kicked, just how fucking wrong all of this is.
This kid isn’t supposed to like me. Rita I can live with but there’s something fucking wrong with a little kid like Matty looking up to a guy like me. That just isn’t right, I know that. It’s more than just the kid. It’s Matty, that fucking name.
Matty never should’ve looked up to me either. I put my life on the line for Matty, I took a fucking bullet for him. In the end, he took one for me, cus he never would’ve got back in with his pops if it wasn’t for wanting to keep me out of an unmarked grave. There were other reasons too but I think I was one of them. And how did I thank him? I went back. One way or another I always fucking go back. He tried to go straight. Fuck, even I tried to go straight, but in the end it was just easier to take jobs when they came and I stayed. I stayed cus I always stay and then I fuck shit up.
I take my jacket off the kid and watch as he runs over to the truck, climbing into the back. Rita gets into the passenger seat and we’re driving west. I got the map unfolded beside me, not looking for places to go but for a big enough place to stop.
“Where are we going?”
Kid’s up on his knees, leaning over my shoulder as I drive.
“Buckle up, kid. We got a while to go yet.”
Rita looks over at me and I point to a spot on the map. Calgary. I figure that’s a big enough place for what I need. She counts off the distance on the map, using her fingers and, without looking up, asks me if I want her to drive some of it. I tell her I’m good.
The kid fell asleep in the back pretty quick. His mother’s awake, but quiet. Looking out the window like the kid did before. It was raining and got dark when we were driving yesterday. I was asleep or close to it for a lot of it so I’m looking around too. Don’t usually care much about that shit. Scenery.
Everything’s that same wheat color for about an hour and then we passed a field of yellow and another of some light purple shit. More green. When we stopped for gas again the fields are full of some sort of grass and I can see the mountains easy, off in the distance. For four hours or so I just drove. Rita’d point something out, or the kid would, but we never slowed down, never stopped. Never slowed down until we hit the edge of the city. Even then, I know I’m just stalling.
I take a last look at the map and then turn off the main road. It’s not far but Rita’s sitting up, alert, watching me carefully as we pass warehouses and shit. Just like I don’t ever trust, she don’t trust either. I could tell her but that’s not going to make her trust any better and it won’t make nothing easier.
The bus station is up on the left but old habits die hard and I circle the block once, getting an eye on what’s around before I pull off to the side of the road.
“What’s going on?”
Her voice is hard and she don’t take her eyes off me even as she reaches back and pokes the kid, telling him without a word to get up.
“This is it, the end of the line.”
“What does that mean?”
At the look of fear that crosses her face I know I should’a worded that better but it’s not gonna matter for long.
“It means this is where I get off. Listen, lady. You and the kid got a chance to get the fuck out of here, make it clean. Like you said, maybe he won’t come looking for you. You saw what went down in Wibeaux. You been around long enough to know what that means. That shit you don’t just walk away from and if I’m with you, that makes you a target. I’m nothing but trouble.”
Maybe D’Angelo won’t come to Canada to look for her and the kid. Maybe she gets lucky. In any case, she can hide better than I can. Decent looking woman and a clean cut kid can move into a nice neighborhood, fit in somewhere and have a real chance.
Me? I left made guys dead in a ditch in Wibeaux. Malone’s already said that the feelers are out for me. If I get lucky, all those fucks’ll kill each other off before they get anywhere near me but I don’t believe in fairy tales. If I stay anywhere near her and the kid, there’s always the chance I get made and we’d all have to make a run for it in the middle of the night. That’s no way to live. Not for them and I’m starting to think it’s not for me either. Every dog has his day and I’m not a dog anymore, just another rabbit. Always been a rabbit.
I’ve had nothing but time to think about this shit, about everything that went wrong, and it all comes down to one person. Me. If I’d'a pushed harder when we was kids, I could have got Matty out. Fuck, when Matty was taking me to get patched up after that shit in Montana, I could’ve told him to drive the other way instead’ve going back to New York. Lot’s of shit I could’ve done differently. I just did what I always did.
“You’re just going to leave us out here.”
I started to get offended until I realized that she’s got no way to know it’d be any different. The kid’s up and takes one look at the two of us and knows something’s wrong.
“Do we have to run again, Mom?”
“It’s not like that.”
I hand her the keys to the truck before I open the door, stepping out onto the side of the road, feeling lighter than I have in days.
The passenger door slams and she’s coming around the side of the truck. Wary now and confused, like she don’t know if she should run or stay. Before she can start, I pull out the roll I been carrying. I never got less than a couple grand on me. I can get more if I need it, I never had no problem making money. Always somebody needs something done. I peel off a couple of bills and put them in my pocket, handing the rest to her.
“You got clean ID’s, the truck’s clean. Get back on the number one and keep going west as far as you can go.”
I turned to walk away but she came after me, grabbing my arm and making me stop. The kid’s outta the truck too, coming up behind his mother. This is what I wanted to avoid. A scene. When I turn to face her, she puts her hands up, and then tucks the roll I gave her into her pocket.
“Where are you going to go?”
“You’re better off not knowing.”
I don’t want nobody getting it out of her if it comes to that. I don’t want to know where she’s going for the same reason. That, and I know I’d start to wonder how they made out. If I knew where they ended up, I might be tempted to go look for them.
“I don’t know how to thank you but you saved our lives. You saved my son’s life.”
She stops and starts a couple times but finally gets it out, choking up at the last when she mentions the kid. You want to know something? It choked me up too, not that I’d ever say it. I got to like that little fuck over the past few days. Before I can say anything, she comes right up to me and kisses my cheek.
“Are you going to keep the same name?”
“Long as it serves.”
‘David Taylor’. My new identity, thanks to Malone. I been Taylor Reese so long I don’t know if I can be somebody else. I know right off I should’a said no, that I wasn’t keeping the name. The less she knows the better, right? Except I still want to know how shit comes out for them. I got her name too, if I need it.
The kid pushes his mother outta the way and walks up to me. Fuck me, I thought I could get out and just walk off but I can’t. Matty’s looking up at me and then he’s got his hand out. My mother didn’t raise me to have no manners so I shake the kid’s hand, pulling him close.
“Take care of your mother.”
Not much else to say. Rita steers the kid back to the truck and tries to thank me again but I waved her off, standing at the side of the road till they drive off. Just like what she thought earlier, I didn’t think I’d really do it till I’d done it.
After I watched them go, I walked back around to the Greyhound station and caught a bus heading north. Something I saw in one of the gas stations we stopped at, some sort of camp work somewhere up north. It’s fucking funny, right? A guy like me up north like some sort of lumberjack or some shit? One thing can be said for it. Nobody I ever knew is gonna look for me there, so maybe I get a break too. Anyway, I got the number for a guy up north and a direction. I always been good with my hands.
The first year, I never thought I’d make it up here.
It wasn’t until some little scrawny fuck started bitching about how brutal it was that I got perspective. I’m thinking it’s a word he threw around easy but I know what brutal really is and this isn’t it. It’s hard, but it’s not brutal. Honest work. Clean.
It doesn’t pay me as much as I got working for Chains but I sleep better. Been in a few fights but they been fair and when I fought, it wasn’t cus anybody told me I had to and I never had to beat a guy to death for something I didn’t give a shit about.
Every few months we get off whatever job we’re working on and go into town. The younger guys blow all their money in whatever place we stop but I got a small cabin by a lake up here that I’m paying off so I save what I got. Place is fucking tiny but I never needed much space and it’s just me. So after a few beers with the guys I work with, I hit the local store. Pick up a few things and check my mail. The store holds it for me and usually there’s nothing but I got a postcard today.
No letter or nothing, just the postcard. Some tourist thing with whales or something on the front.
‘We’re doing okay, hope you are too. R+M’.
I don’t get tv up here and I get enough nature that I don’t have to watch nature programs. I can watch wolves chase shit right from my front porch if I want to. It still makes me think of Matty and I still like watching shit with the drive to get free.
© Copyright 20 August 2009 xxxevilgrinxxx